Gulf of Aden Security Review

A regularly updated review of both Yemen and the Horn of Africa covering topics related to security, governance, and militant activity.

Yemen: Saudi-led coalition to investigate March 15 airstrikes in Hajjah governorate; Saudi aid organization delivers food and medical supplies to Sa’ada governorate; Dutch parliament votes to suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia; AQAP’s Ansar al Sharia claims significant gains in Taiz city; U.S. Navy assesses that weapons smuggling dhow seized on March 7 is Iranian

Horn of Africa: Puntland Defense Forces kill 11 militants in Garmaal, Nugaal region, Somalia; Jubbaland Security Forces kill senior al Shabaab leader near Kismayo, Lower Jubba region; al Shabaab attacks Afmadow town in Lower Jubba region; Somali police arrest suspected al Shabaab members in Wadajir district, Mogadishu


Yemen Security Brief

  • The Saudi-led coalition announced on March 16 that it is investigating its March 15 airstrikes on a qat market in the city of Mustaba’, Hajjah governorate in northern Yemen. The attack killed over 90 and wounded over 40, according to local health officials. A similar strike killed over 25 civilians at a market in Nihm district, Sana’a governorate in February. Both sides in Yemen’s ongoing civil war have been accused of causing disproportionate civilian casualties.[1]
  • The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center delivered approximately 100,000 parcels of food aid and approximately 200 tons of medical aid to the northern Yemeni governorate of Sa’ada, according to Saudi media. Coalition forces reportedly helped coordinate the delivery. The current unofficial border ceasefire aims to facilitate the delivery of aid to northern Yemen, according to coalition statements. The coalition’s air campaign on al Houthi forces and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has put substantial pressure on the al Houthi stronghold of Sa’ada since the beginning of the campaign in March 2015.[2]
  • The parliament of the Netherlands voted on March 15 to discontinue arms exports to Saudi Arabia, citing a recent UN report alleging violations of international law by the Saudi-led coalition and its adversaries in Yemen. The Dutch bill will implement a resolution passed on February 25 by the European Union parliament calling for an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.[3]
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s insurgent arm, Ansar al Sharia, claimed a series of territorial gains in the city of Taiz on March 12, mirroring claims by local anti-al Houthi militias and coalition-backed forces. The claim indicates that Ansar al Sharia continues to operate closely alongside local militias against the al Houthis and allied forces loyal to former president Saleh. Anti-al Houthi forces captured significant parts of western Taiz city on March 11 and 12, breaking a months-long siege.[4]
  • U.S. Navy officials assess that a smuggling dhow intercepted off the coast of Oman originated in Iran and was likely delivering weapons to the al Houthis in Yemen by way of Somalia. The vessel, intercepted by an Australian Combined Maritime Forces vessel on March 7, was carrying over 2,000 handheld weapons including 1,989 AK-47s and 100 rocket propelled grenades.[5]

Horn of Africa Security Brief

  • Puntland Defense Forces (PDF) attacked militant positions in the town of Garmaal in the Puntland autonomous region of Somalia on March 16, killing at least 11 militants. The militants are possibly part of a group that raided Gara’ad town, 175 kilometers south of Garmaal, on March 14 and continued to travel towards Garmaal.  Some sources identified these militants as al Shabaab, while others identified them as a pro-ISIS cell that split from al Shabaab in October 2015 and is reportedly active in Puntland near the town of Hul-Canood. [6]
  • Jubbaland Security Forces (JSF) reportedly killed Bashir Garweyne, an al Shabaab commander, and 10 of his bodyguards during a raid at Shandarmood near Kismayo in Somalia’s Lower Jubba region. Garweyne supervised the militant group’s operations in both Lower and Middle Jubba regions.[7]
  • Al Shabaab militants launched an attack on Afmadow town in Somalia’s Lower Jubba region on March 16, killing three Jubbaland security officers. Residents of the town reported that the group used heavy weapons, including artillery, against the JSF troops. JSF forces repulsed the attack with support of the Kenyan African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops. The Kenyan Defense Forces issued a statement claiming that 19 militants were killed in the attack.[8]
  • Somali police arrested at least 10 suspected al Shabaab members during a security clearing operation Mogadishu’s Wadajir district on March 16. The police are interrogating the suspects about forthcoming plots.[9]

[1] “Saudi-led coalition to investigate Yemen air strikes,” Al Jazeera, March 16, 2016,
Shuaib AlMosawa and Kareem Fahim, “Dozens Killed in Airstrikes on Market in Yemen,” New York Times, March 15, 2016,
[2] “100,000 relief aid food parcels arrive in Saada from Saudi,” Al Arabiya, March 15, 2016,
[3] “Dutch parliament votes to ban weapon exports to Saudi Arabia,” Reuters, March 15, 2016,
[4] “AQAP claims seizing five location and capturing six Houthis in Taiz, attacks in al-Bayda’ and Ibb,” SITE Intelligence Group, March 15, 2016, source available upon request.
[5] Colin Freeman, “Question: how do you avoid jail after being arrested with 10 tons of guns? Answer: get the navy to catch you,” The Daily Telegraph, March 8, 2016,
[6] “Somalia: 11 militants killed as Puntland commences clean-up operation,” Garowe Online, March 16, 2016,; “Puntland forces clash with alleged ISIL militants in Nugal, as regional state accuses Fed government of supporting al-Shabaab,” Goobjoog News, March 16, 2016,; ‘Major fighting’ in Puntland between govt forces and insurgents,” Somali Review, March 16, 2016,
[7] “Al-Shabab commander killed in raid in Lower Jubba raid,” Goobjoog News, March 15, 2016,
[8] “Fierce battle in Afmadow leaves 3 soldiers dead,” Shabelle News, March 16, 2016,; Olga Bogorad, Twitter, March 16, 2016,
[9] “Somalia: Scores rounded up in Mogadishu sweep,” Shabelle News, March 16, 2016,  
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